Must-Reads from Around the World

Laos pays the price of Chinese rail expansion in Southeast Asia, Africa's energy consumption is growing fastest in the world and Latvians buckle down to weather an economic crisis.

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Chinese Rail Expansion — Beijing’s plans to expand its rail network from southern China to the Thai capital of Bangkok will generate profits for China but at the expense of neighboring country Laos, reports the New York Times. The Laotian government will borrow $7 billion from China for the 260-mile rail project, which would run from Kunming through Laos’ Oudom Xai and capital Ventianne. “Laos offers a perfect launching pad for China’s stepped-up regional ambitions,” as Southeast Asia has growing economic and geostrategic importance for China, writes the Times. In 2011, trade between China and the region hit $370 billion, double that of China-U.S. trade during the same period.

African Energy Consumption — Africa’s per capita energy consumption is the fastest-growing in the world with a growth rate of 4.1% due to improved infrastructure, inward investment and anti-corruption efforts, notes the Christian Science Monitor. The continent is also in a good position to meet its growing energy needs, as there have been 64 major discoveries of new fuel supplies in the last five years. Despite an abundance of untapped fuel supplies, African nations still use inefficient energy sources and lack reliable supplies, writes the CSM.

A Case for Austerity — Latvia, like most of the world, was hit hard by the economic crisis in 2008 with the economy shrinking by 20% and a banking crisis. And like many European Union countries, the small Baltic state introduced strict austerity measures. But instead of protests and rioting, Latvians responded by buckling down and enduring the hardships reports the New York Times. What accounts for the difference in attitude? It could be that Latvia, which has endured much political and economic turmoil in the past century, has endured worse before. As Normunds Bergs, a chief executive of a Latvian manufacturer, told the Times, “Economics is not a science. Most of it is in people’s heads.”

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